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Paul is CEO and Co-founder of Captora. Paul brings unique experiences from leading product, marketing and sales in some of Silicon Valley’s most innovative, market-creating, private and public software companies.

Most recently Paul was Chief Revenue Officer at Marketo (NASDAQ: MKTO) where he drove the overall revenue strategy across sales and marketing that delivered global revenue growth over 100% year-over-year, from $14m to $58m. In a similar position at SuccessFactors, he grew revenues to more than $200m and over 80% year-over-year growth. Previously, Paul led worldwide marketing at NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) and at Informatica (NASDAQ: INFA), which he joined pre-revenue through their successful IPO. He also served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Greylock.

Paul currently serves on the Board of Directors of Aasonn, Captora, and Clarizen, and is a frequent speaker and blogger, helping to demystify modern marketing strategies that accelerate growth in high-performing companies.

You can follow him on Twitter: @paulalbright

He will be live on Feb 4 from 930 AM onwards for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    over 3 years ago #

    Thank you for doing this AMA, Paul.

    Your career seems to have switched back and forth between physical hardware, packaged software, service, and SaaS. First question: Are there common threads that you can think of between successfully selling and marketing these different tech products? Major differences?

    More personally, you've worked for a variety of companies in terms of size and maturity. What size company do you most enjoy working for and why?

    Thanks!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi John, yes absolutely! One of my career aspirations was to always stay in front of the market. Enterprise tech started in hardware, moved to software, and then to SaaS - so did my career. I've been in the SaaS world for the last 15 years and it's been a blast! Almost as much innovation in sales and marketing as there have been in technology. Innovate on both and you will disrupt in a big way. The biggest change is leading with marketing - in the 1990s - 2000s the message was "if you want to grow faster, hire more sales people"; that's stupid - then you have sales people without pipeline. Over the past 5 years, the best executing sales and marketing leaders agree to hire sales people AFTER there is pipeline for them - sales people should be focusing their time on closing business and this approach makes their ramp time a fraction of the old model.

      I think there are two fundamental types of people - builders and fixers. I'm more of a builder...happy to fix growth problems, bored by fixing basic problems that don't cause growth. Growth companies can be of any size in my book. The more complex and large the growth opportunity, the more fired up I get. It's all about working with the best people, customers, market, and products in my book!

      4 Share
  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul,

    So excited to have you at GrowthHackers.

    Growth is an increasingly common concept in B2C or small B2B companies, where do you think the future direction of enterprise marketing will go and how do you think about the role of growth there?

    Another question that might be a little bit naive, obviously you have joined and led in so many successful companies, throughout your career, what are the most important steps you took and the biggest learning you had?

    Thank you!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Here we go!!!

      Hello Hila, thank you for the questions! Marketing will continue to play a bigger role as the core growth engine for B2C and B2B companies. By definition, Marketing is a 1-to-many function (sales is 1:1) and more buyers are making their purchase decisions digitally versus talking to a person. Investors want their companies to grow faster AND grow more efficiently – these all add up to Marketing owning more, not less, of the funnel; certainly from anonymous through qualified lead. I also believe that winning companies will leverage digital marketing to understand their markets (buyers and competitors) via data that drives priorities – guesswork will fad and be replaced by data – that is another win for marketing in the digital era.

      Regarding your second question – wow, I could write a book about this topic! Love it!! I was fortunate to have amazing mentors early in my career and it is important for me to help others early in their careers. Be coachable, self-reflective (real about your strengths and weaknesses), and carefully/proactively manage your network. When I was 24, the company I was with had a formal “Hi-potential” program that I was fortunate to be chosen for and the president was my mentor. The biggest question I had was, “Why to I see smart people with bad career trajectories and dumb people shooting up the ladder?”- no good answer. That was something I watched over the years and I believe in the following career mantra:

      Preparation + Perspiration – Interference = Maximum Success

      Add to this a trusted network of great people you can call to vet key decisions and to compliment your strengths. Do the above, learn from the best, and you will grow and become amazingly successful. Then help others to do the same later in your career. Challenge yourself, take accountability, make everyone around you better, and create a sustained impact.

      Take calculated risks based on the POP model – People, Opportunity, and Product. Always take the more challenging fork in the road, but also where the best people, future opportunity (for the company and yourself), and products are – always be working with products a couple of steps in front of the market – lead!

      5 Share
      • PA

        Paul Albright

        over 3 years ago #

        Yea, good follow-up Hila! Interference is a combo-platter - it's the voice in your head (make it positive versus telling you that you can't do it); people and inputs around you that are buzz-kill...use them for motivation instead of taking you off your game. Network and hang with people that are realists, calculated risk-takers, and that you learn to trust. As one VERY high IQ person once said to me, "I used to think that being the smartest person in the room was the biggest reason I would be successful; now I realize it can be a ceiling." Be humble and seek great inputs - people that go at it alone, no matter how high your IQ, will make poor decisions without leveraging others. I've seen it many times - smart people chasing a big title, but don't consider the people around them are not A-players.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 3 years ago #

        Wow Paul, this is an incredible answer.

        I was tempted to ask a follow up question: what are some examples of interference you see that cause smart people to enter into bad career trajectories, and how people can avoid that?

      • PA

        Paul Albright

        over 3 years ago #

        I'm a fan of LinkedIn and Twitter to manage your networks, but nothing replaces good ole fashion phone calls/bfsat/lunch/dinner meetings + thank you notes...be engaging without abusing others' time and good work friends will always want to help. Especially once they trust that what they say is safe and they can do the same with you.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        Love the managing your career advice - this is gold!
        Regarding "Carefully/proactively manage your network"- this is hard work for sure. Do you use any tools to make doing this more efficient?

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        Based on your first answer, could you talk more about your Marketing / Sales lead hand-off. What does that process look like?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul, really excited to have you on for this AMA. I know a lot of people have trouble getting started with marketing automation solutions. What do you find are the top 3 impediments to companies getting maximum benefit from marketing automation tools once they're bought in to them? Any tips for overcoming these challenges?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Sean, Yes - jump in the pool and hire a ninja to set it up with salesforce so it delivers results. The biggest problem comes to those that buy MA and don't operationalize it for scoring and nurturing...your marketing/SDRs/AEs should be in that system all the time! Only buy it with the plan to get it live and really operational within 90-days. Then go to the top of the funnel and to drive more new leads/contacts into your MA solution to speed growth and productivity!

      4 Share
  • DT

    Drew T

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul,

    Sales enablement is a crucial part of scaling and growing a marketing technology company. What was your most valuable sales enablement tool while growing Marketo from $14m to $58m?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey there Drew! Great question and I agree 1000%!! Think about it, the most important variables in a great (versus shitty) sales model are:
      1) sales velocity (# deals per rep per month)
      2) average deal size
      3) sales cycle
      4) rep ramp time

      Sales and marketing technologies that impact the above are worth their weight in gold! My tech stack is Salesforce + Marketo + Captora and we add a bunch of tools that help as well, like SalesLoft, Datanyze, GoogleAnalytics, and LinkedIn.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        Curious, what does LI provide that you don't get from the combination of tools you mentioned?

  • PJ

    Pedro Junior

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul,

    What kind of growth strategies would you use if you don't have money to spend?

    Thanks

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Wow Pedro, I think you have to start with social and organic search. Make sure you build a solid website with quality content and you will earn the right to get, and spend, money as results come!

  • BL

    Björn Lapakko

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul,

    What lifestyle activity/ies have you found most impactful on your career? Why?

    Thanks :-)

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Bjorn, not sure I know exactly what you mean by lifestyle - let me know if my answer hits what you are looking for. Outside of Captora, I geek out on family, culture, and growth – personal, professional, and for the world around us. Reading and connecting with other people that share my socially liberal, fiscally conservative, approach to leave the world a better place. The most impactful has been deeply understanding other cultures and spending time internationally – have grown several global businesses and feel I have a decent understanding and respect for others no matter their background, beliefs, etc. Am active with some doctor friends – we go to 3rd world countries to operate on children with deformities so they can lead a far happier and productive life. The last trip was to Vietnam and I took my oldest kid – that had an impact on both my life/career as well as the next generation! Leave an enduring, positive, impact in the end!!

      • PA

        Paul Albright

        over 3 years ago #

        There are two sides to every company - leave an enduring impact by:
        1) improving the lives of your customers (and therefore our employees, and shareholders); unleash our customers by helping them to be more productive, learn best practices, and work on more impactful things (removing guessing and super-boring/tactical work that can be automated)...they get promoted and enjoy their work life more.

        2) Philanthropy - encourage & build a culture that gives back to our community and makes the world a better place. As we grow, Captora will formalize and expand our philanthropy programs globally.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        "Leave an enduring, positive, impact in the end!!"
        If I can repurpose your response a bit and put you on the spot - what do you think Captora's enduring, positive impact will be?

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to do this AMA - awesome to have you on!

    I have 2 questions (I hope you don't mind)!

    1) How complex is the relationship between marketing and revenue? E.g. is it better to double-down on one strategy than have a 'full spec' strategy with gaps in it?

    2) Where are you seeing the trends and areas of focus in your work at Greylock?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Bring 'em on Edward – great questions, thank you! I'll break my answers down to hit both of your questions directly:

      1) the relationship between marketing and revenue is not that complex. It is certainly a journey that must scale, but as the old saying goes, the journey of a million steps starts with one. Nail down your full funnel flow in simple steps and definitions (keep attribution consistent and common!). Measurement and metrics should also be simple and aligned with your revenue goals. Work backward, let’s break it down for an SMB team…

      If:
      Opp-to-Bookings = 60 days
      And your May bookings target for the SMB team is $10m
      And your average deal size is $50k
      Then you need 200 deals to be closed in May

      If your Opp-to-Bookings conversion rate is 50%, you need >400 SMB Opportunities heading into March. Then just work backward up the funnel to nail down the monthly goals for leads and visitors.

      The other consideration is what % of sales pipeline comes from marketing (and each channel in marketing – inbound, outbound, and referral). Now you can establish monthly goals for your demand generation and SDR teams.

      The other key goal is to improve conversion rates at each step – Prospect-to-Lead, Lead-to-Opp, and Opp-to-Bookings.

      2) We live in interesting times – technology disruptions are breaking out all over the place. I think big data will just become the common platform over the next 5 years so the key is leveraging that data so the right priorities and decisions get made across your company. That means SaaS enters the third phase – SaaS 3.0 is something I spend a lot of time thinking and working on – machine-learning/AI + big data + domain/Best-Practices automation in companies that innovate on the go-to-market side of their businesses (e.g., digital, growth, marketing) to beat the slow old tech giants.

      Hope this is helpful Edward!

      4 Share
  • AS

    Alex Sherstinsky

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul, thank you for doing an AMA with us! How is your growth team structured and why is it that way?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Ha – love this question Alex! We have an inside sales model at Captora and our sales velocity goal is for the SMB sales team to be closing ~3-4 new customers per month. We are in a very noisy market, but with extremely unique technology and best practice automation for top-of-funnel marketing (demand gen and content marketing). It all starts with marketing - our stack is Salesforce + Marketo + Captora and our marketing is based around thought leadership and practitioner content. We execute across search/advertising/social channels with Captora and put new contacts into Marketo for nurturing and scoring. We have a qualification team (SDRs) that turn MQLs (marketing qualified leads) into Opportunities (sales accepted leads) so our sales people spend the bulk of their time closing business, not prospecting or qualifying in the middle or top of the funnel. We have built out our systems and metrics to report across our full funnel so we continually improve our productivity by concentrating on solving the most important problems while leveraging data to prioritize our campaigns and investment mix.

      We started with an SMB company focus and leverage our partnerships with Salesforce, Marketo, Eloqua/Oracle, and Act-On, as well as with marketing agencies and SIs. We have now invested in a separate sales team focused on larger/global companies and I see more focus on partners and developing our ecosystem as our customers and sales team expand Captora's international business.

      The reason for this approach is to match the way our buyers are used to buying and to compliment our partners' business models. We help marketing automation companies' customers to get more from their CRM and MA investments and Captora provides their products with additional data so they operate faster and more efficiently. Given there is far more demand than there are great modern marketers, we built Captora to speed our customer impact and to be a joy to work with - a vision that will serve us well in the future!

      2 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        "We help marketing automation companies' customers to get more from..."

        This right here seems to me is the implementation of one awesome formula for success - Make someone's already successful product even better when they use you.

        Genius!

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Paul

    Thanks for taking the time for this!

    Could you talk about all the things you did to gain early traction and which strategy(ies) worked best?
    Did you go in some assumptions about what would work and what wouldn't that were validated/invalidated?

    Cheers!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Early traction is all about setting appropriate expectations to gain trust from the right early customers/partners. Don't get over your skis - pick the right early customers and build the fundamentals into your product and messaging/positioning. Hire less, but A+ people - your first 100 people set your culture on the right trajectory.

      There are always tons of adjustment along the way. Beware of making too many changes - important to be able to filter noise from great input so your people aren't circling instead of moving forward. For example, I had an advisor tell me we should price based on results. That was a bad idea IMO - not a SaaS model...VERY happy we didn't go that route!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Yea, the marketing-to-sales hand-off is THE most critical one in the funnel. Accidents happen at intersections and this intersection is the one you want to focus on in a big way.

      1) marketing lead qualification should be scored and when it hits a certain level, it's ready to hand to sales.
      2) sales acceptance of the lead should happen in a defined period of time (e.g., 24 hours) and with a defined qualification process (e.g., BANT)
      3) when sales accepts the lead, it's now an opportunity and should be closed in a certain timeframe with a set process and expected number of sales calls.
      4) your MA and CRM systems should track and report the conversion rate by person, campaign, channel, etc. as well as the time it takes to move through each phase of the funnel. Then you can improve on these metrics continually.

      3 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 3 years ago #

    Bonjour Paul,

    You have led growth at pre-revenue companies and at growth companies already more mature, in the growth phase and generating strong revenue.

    In these experiences:

    1) What is the one thing to focus on to transition from pre-revenue to revenue?
    2) Once you crossed that chasm, do you still focus on the same one thing? If not, where is the new focus?

    Merci beaucoup!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Cher Arsene! In the pre-revenue phase, it's all about product-market fit. Does your product and customer success processes result in value beyond what your beta customers expect? How do you talk about it so they 'get' what you do and how to think about your company and product. Moving to revenue, it's about getting the systems, processes, and people in place to support your go-to-market model and assumptions. Go get customers to stretch/stress your assumptions so you learn what an ideal customer really is for your company. Cut loose those that will steal time and never result in great references (hard but important step). Then repeat and learn as you gain great references. Build customer case stories and thought leadership content.

      2) Now that your model is mostly proven - EXPAND! Leverage your core business model to create new growth engines leveraging your core marketing machine - SMB, enterprise, new geographies, new verticals, channels, etc. Focus on knowing the math of your business (full funnel economics) and align your people ratios/compensation plans with company goals and role. Hire amazing people and expand your great culture!

      Il n'y a pas de quoi!!
      Paul

      3 Share
      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        over 3 years ago #

        Merveilleux @paulalbright! And I am not just talking about your French :)

        This is powerful insight.

        For 1), I think your point on "cut loose those that steal time" is crucial. Focus is what makes you win, I don't believe many early stage companies understand that well enough actually.

        For 2), expansion is quite fascinating. And I would argue that it requires fairly similar attitudes inside the company as in the pre-revenue phase although at that point, except for some statistically insignificant outlier companies who achieve hyper growth on a thin operational structure, your organization has reached a point of stronger inertia (more people, heavier processes and systems to connect the two) which can make it more challenging to connect the growth dots.

        Would that be the inflection point where culture takes on its full value-add?
        Culture as growth synergy driver in the face of decelerating operational agility?

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Paul,

    Thanks so much for doing this AMA. Can you share a bit about the process you use to manage the performance of your team and growth at your companies? What does the process look like and who's involved?

    Also, do you have an example of a specific instance where you had to iterate through an issue to really get a breakthrough in growth?

    Thanks!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Morgan, sure thing! I'm all about managing with systems/reports/metrics tied to our revenue goals. Each team/person plays a role so keep it simple - demand gen = visitors-to-lead, SDRs = leads-to-opportunities, AEs = opportunities-to-revenue$. Less meetings, more transparency via salesforce/marketing automation/Captora reports so I can clearly understand what's working and what needs to improve. Over time you will learn your business far better than your competitors. There should be weekly metrics/reports and well as monthly and quarterly across the key parts of your business (customer, people, product, funnel, expenses, and cash).

      A great example was when I was at Marketo. We had a weekly forecast review every Friday starting at 7am. Marketing kicked off the meeting where they went through the funnel changes from last week + versus the monthly goal. Sales would then update their forecast and monthly revenue commitment. We had a disconnect one week where marketing said they beat their goals, but sales said they didn't see it. We found out two days later that a competitor had changed their model and was using a person (versus nurturing program) to engage earlier with prospects...targeting our funnel and picking them out! We changed our process and hammered them in less than a week - was very cool to see that kind of issue in our dashboard/data and to fix it within a week!

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Paul. What is Captora’s one metric that matters? Thanks!

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Hello Brand! I'd go with Customer Success (ROI), but you can't grow a successful company with just one metric - but customer success is everything. That folds back into our people, product, and culture along with a ton of operational details, but those are for another discussion.

      Thank you for the question!

      • PA

        Paul Albright

        over 3 years ago #

        The best customer wins start with understanding the profile of your target customers - what's the center of that bullseye and each rung from there. Set up your marketing campaigns to engage your bullseye prospects and your scoring and nurturing programs so you filter through the best prospects to scale your sales pipeline with the best possible new customers. Make them great references and the above process will repeat and expand as your company enters new markets leveraging insanely fired up customers to attract new ones!

        2 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen towards ensuring better customer wins?

  • JM

    Jason Meresman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Paul - thanks for your time today!

    Do you have a particular growth experiment that was either a big win or a big learning experience that you can share with us, particularly around pricing?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Yes, Jason...many! One that comes to mind is don't be afraid of premium pricing as long as you have premium product/service/experience. I think you either have to price at a premium and bet on that kind of business or go the complete opposite - disrupt with a low price and low touch model (e.g., Atlassian and Xero). The trouble is when you seek the middle ground with everyone else and don't stand out with a disruptive approach to combine with your amazing product.

  • BS

    Bobby Stemper

    over 3 years ago #

    How did Marketo track it's content marketing efforts? I assume you're focused on improving the bottom line with sales qualified leads.. If you could get more leads for less through other channels, how do you justify a content marketing financially?

    • PA

      Paul Albright

      over 3 years ago #

      Good question Bobby! At Marketo, we wired our marketing metrics and web assets so tightly that our main focus was new visitors since we converted them so efficiently. Our content strategy was primarily around thought leadership in the early days - be a destination sight for marketers to learn best practices. Over time, we got better at tracking practitioner-level content as well as overall and content ROI (manually).

      Interesting that today Captora has customers that track/report content ROI and automate that for monthly reporting. We are seeing more companies wanting to leverage us as data that reports on their existing content and its impact on growth + data-driven content roadmap strategy. Makes sense since I see content as the "product" for growth marketing. Makes it clear for justifying content budget spend!

      4 Share

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